Olive Miller: Cayman's own Mother Teresa

The opening of the new $7.5 million Pines Retirement building is a propitious occasion that provides a fit opportunity to recognize a towering member of the Cayman Islands community (despite her petite physical stature), Olive Miller. When Queen Elizabeth II opened the retirement home in 1983, Miss Olive, as she is affectionately known, was The Pines’ first manager. Now a brisk 92 years of age, she is perhaps the most well-known resident of The Pines, and certainly one of the most beloved.

The accomplishments of Miss Olive — who is as near to a Mother Teresa figure as Cayman has ever had — are so numerous and substantial that it is difficult to imagine fitting them into one lifetime, much less one editorial column.

In her nearly 70 years since first coming to this country, Miss Olive has made a positive impact on generations of Caymanians and residents, at all points in their lives. Here is an abridged and incomplete list of Miss Olive’s achievements:

In 1946, she founded the Girls’ Guildry in Cayman, now known as the Girls’ Brigade, upon first arriving in Cayman, after traveling from England to Jamaica as a youth missionary for the Presbyterian Church, now known in Cayman as the United Church. In Jamaica, she helped found Knox College in Clarendon.
In 1949, she helped the Rev. George Hicks start the Cayman Islands High School.
In 1967, she was awarded the Queen’s certificate and badge of honour.
In 1975, she was one of the founding members of the National Council of Social Service, now known as the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.
In 1977, she was named a Member of the British Empire.
In 1980, she and Evelyn Andresen co-founded the Pink Ladies volunteer corps.
In 2003, she was named one of Cayman’s five “Distinguished Women of History” (the only living recipient), an award bestowed during the Quincentennial celebrations.
In 2009, she received a Spirit of Excellence Award during National Heroes Day.
In 2010, she received a Golden Apple Lifetime Achievement Award for her years of dedication to educating young people.
In 2011, she published a book, Cayman Rhyme Time, containing traditional songs, information, pictures and history, all about her adopted homeland.

The list above is merely a summation of the individual minutes, hours and years that Miss Olive has personally devoted to caring for the young, old, infirm and otherwise vulnerable members of Cayman society. No award, or list of awards, could encapsulate the enthusiastic spirit of selflessness that is the hallmark of Miss Olive’s legacy.

On a collegial note, Miss Olive is also a direct forebear of today’s news and communications professionals in Cayman, including this newspaper. You see, not only was Miss Olive the country’s first paid news reporter, but later she also became Cayman’s first government information officer, a position she held for 11 years before retiring in 1981.

Her career in the news business began in 1964 when she was recruited by Jim McDonald to work as a reporter for the Tradewinds newspaper. She moved on to the newly established Caymanian Weekly (a predecessor of the Caymanian Compass) in October 1965.

On the completion of the much-needed and long-awaited renovation of The Pines, we “descendants” at the Compass would like to offer our congratulations to Miss Olive, home founder Dick Arch, chairman Julian Reddyhough and all those who contributed to this most worthwhile project.

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